Good to My Earhole: May 5-9 – What? NEW Rekkids?

Good to My Earhole: May 5-9 – What? NEW Rekkids?

The huddled sandspeck of humanity who regularly visit this blog no doubt have discerned a certain propensity of the author’s for looking backwards. Always said I never would, now I seem always to be. I’ve made the “dustbins of cyberspace” argument, and I am indeed left slot-mouthed in response to “new music,” but, to be fair, one needs a little perspective (in addition to 42 years’ worth of listening to records) to evaluate art accurately. However, two new albums by established giants came through the mail slot this week, as well as one from a local hero who‘s just sailed from between Scylla and Charibdis scarred but not scared, so I cannot resist taking a shot at ’em.


Sonny Rollins: Road Shows, Volume 3 (Doxy) For the 83-year-old Rollins, both the road and the show seem to go on powerfully forever, and together. The third volume in this highly recommended and expertly compiled series mixes three Rollins originals–he is an underrated composer–one solo flight, and two of the American-songbook chestnuts Sonny was seemingly born to explore the contours of for an approximation of an epic performance (the tracks actually date from four different appearances, 2001-2012). Though his solos may not forge and unfurl unbroken like in days of old, his tone, invention (though he claims not to think and play at the same time), sense of humor, and grace are still beyond the reach of mere mortals–aka “the living body of jazz players.” Case in point: the majestic “Why Was I Born.” As my man at The Stash Dauber, Ken Shimamoto, has eloquently suggested, there are worse predicaments on Planet Earth 2014 than having the grammar of world popsong (that is, of the HISTORY of popsong) at your disposal. Give your man props while he’s living. Don’t wait ’til the heartbeat stops.



Neil Young: A Letter Home (Third Man) Honestly, I haven’t attended Uncle Neil for awhile, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on him. He’s always had one eye on the hands of time, so he’s a sure bet to still have plenty of artistic life in him as he ages. Which brings us to his newest release, one, conveniently, that plays with time by virtue of its recording circumstances. You can go elsewhere for the specific technical details, but Young recorded a set of very thematic O.P.s (“other people’s”) in a contraption that spits out “forest-fire” audio, complete with pops, crackles, lo-fi gauze, and unreliable pitch, that is reminiscent of both a very primitive demo and a much-abused 78 from the ’20s. It’s not a new trick–among major artists, Tom Waits has had it up his sleeve in the past–and I am not sure I like it. At first glance, I thought the song selections were chosen with inconsistent imagination, and would end up being my major complaint; after two listens, I actually like even “On the Road Again” and “My Hometown,” and the concept speaks the way the artist intended it to. It’s even moving. However, I don’t see the point in intentionally make it sound like crap (PRIMITIVE I will take in a minute–not the same thing!); maybe it’s just me, but that would seem to compromise the emotional power of the project: the deliberately “antique” production not only creates an unnecessary barrier for the intimacy of Young’s performance to penetrate, but it also raises my suspicions about Neil’s sincerity, if the record had to be thus fiddled with. And if he’s NOT being sincere–man, gimme my money back to spend on some Pono thing. I confess to being highly sensitive to the taint of Jack White’s hand in matters–he’s screwed up other projects for folks with his gimmickry (most notable past victim: Wanda Jackson) after having largely built his own reputation on gimmicks. It’s something I’d never have thought Neil Young would fall for. So…caveat emptor, if you’re going to spend your hard-earned dough. Try this, which is the highlight, to my ears:


Glen David Andrews: Redemption (Louisiana Red Hot) What would a blog post of mine be without some New Orleans flavor? Unbeknownst to outsiders, Mr. Andrews, a talented trombonist, songwriter, and singer, as well as progeny of a royal music family line, has spent the good part of the last fifteen years putting great music down in the studio, traveling the country testifying to the continued vitality of Crescent City traditions, and putting his feet in the street and squaring up to authorities as an activist for multiple local causes. Unfortunately, he did all of that while wrestling with substance abuse, which finally brought him down during the first years of this decade. Redemption is one of the most musically and emotionally powerful sobriety albums since Stevie Ray Vaughan’s In Step; Andrews himself says, “This is a record about my journey back from the living dead.” Glen is one of the finest brass band and NOLA trad jazz players alive, but the music here is brawny, funky rock and roll. This is not only an accurate projection of Andrews’ personality, but also an expression of spiritual joy buoyed by rebirth and a product of the man’s muscular support: Ivan Neville, Galactic’s Ben Ellman, and local guitar hero Anders Osborne. If you’ve never heard (of) him, time to get on board. Special guest appearance from beyond: Mahalia Jackson.

Listening Journal, Southern Journey, March 28

Today would have been a wonderful day to report on music. The plan, among other things, like eating at legendary soul food haven Dooky Chase’s and exploring the Irish Channel, was to have included seeing one of our favorite musicians, Alvin Youngblood Hart. Hart was playing in power trio mode at dba’s on Frenchmen; besides being a stellar guitarist and singer, he has a  phenomenal musical comfort range: from Charley Patton to Black Oak Arkansas, from Western swing to Beefheart. We could not wait–the perfect capper to a transcendent trip. Not to mention that troubled trombonist/activist/traditional-gospel man about NOLA Glen David Andrews, another favorite of ours we were introduced to through the great documentary SHAKE THE DEVIL OFF! and The True/False Film Festival, was playing at The Three Muses, also on Frenchmen. Woah!

Then, already a little bugged by what I thought were allergies, I came down with a full-blown case of respiratory hacking and general fatigue–not helped by BUCKETS of rain dumped on me in 60-degree weather in the late morning. I ended up back at the hotel, down for a three-hour count while Nicole explored the Oak Street area via trolley.

By 7:45 pm, I just didn’t think I could hack it. But Nicole had nabbed me some ultra-Sudafed, and in a half-hour I felt game at least for a ride-walk out to Frenchmen to eat and stroll. Hart didn’t go on til 11, and Andrews would have already been through his set by the time we got there. Still, it would be a nice “so long” to The City That Care Forgot.


We ate at The Praline Connection, from within which we could hear a great high school brass band blowin’ for tips; “That’s how they ALL get started,” our waitress explained. From our window seat we saw the mix of tourists, bohemians, and musicians (including a solitary, somber Mr. Andrews) that is characteristic of a Marigny Friday file by. The site seemed to me like a MUCH looser, less swinging but more varied version of 1930s KC, with a seeming 15 music venues in a two-block area. After dinner, we walked past several, hearing Washboard Chaz and what looked like his eclectic unit Tin Men rabble-rousing at The Spotted Cat. Really, there’s somethin’ for everyone on Frenchmen Street.


I didn’t have the stamina or health to hang for AYH’s show. We rode two trolleys back to St. Charles, this time the music solely in my head.

Well, I take that back: at The Praline Connection one of the waiters kept singing the chorus of “Gin and Juice”–I think the brass band had just knocked it out. An hour later, waiting for the St. Charles trolley at the corner of Canal and Carondelet, two enterprising young hustlers pulled their ride to the curb and serenaded a gaggle of young blondes with–you guessed it–“Gin and Juice.” Come to think of it, the song does have NOLA written all over it….